On assignment—what to do when the story doesn’t happen


When I braved the cold weather to cover a story about the Amen Corner in Peavey Park, I expected to find what their press release promised: people registering to vote. Following Google Maps directions, I found myself at the intersection of a highway entrance and a glum-looking parking lot with no prospective voters, and no gathering at all. Now what? I tried, unsuccessfully, to reach my editor, and finally turned my bike back up Franklin toward home, cold and disappointed under a darkening sky. Then I heard it: loud music and a man’s voice chanting “Can I get an Amen” through speakers.

Curiosity and intuition arose as I crossed the street to confirm what was going on inside the plaza. I asked the first person I made eye contact with if this was the Amen Corner. The middle-aged man grinned and motioned me into the park. Relieved, I entered Amen Corner to see couple people bouncing to the hip-hop music and munching on the last of summer’s hot dogs. The kind man I had just met guided me to a warm, smoky grill where I was handed a bun and a hot dog, cooked my favorite way: burnt. To my surprise, the man even poured ketchup and mustard for me, another welcoming gesture. Though I was the only white, young female in the park, I felt a sense of belonging and inclusion among this small group of people. As I sat down to enjoy the company of two new acquaintances, I noticed there were about ten people who came to this particular Amen Corner, none of whom seemed to be registering to vote. The two men I talked with both had positive comments about MADDADS, the organizer of the event.

Within a couple days of my experience at Peavey Park, I volunteered to cover a story on the Minnesota African Festival hosted by Safari restaurant just off Lake Street. The Facebook page for this provided details about the block party as “camel-ride, games and mock passports for kids, balloon castle, painting, bazaar, food- camel burger, open mic, live music, stand-up comedy.” I was enthusiastic to photograph this and I was even excited to taste the foreign foods promised to be there. To my dismay, I arrived to a stage with no music and no sign of celebrants — just a Minneapolis police car parked in the street. The event had been scheduled to start more than an hour earlier, yet nothing was set up. I left after nearly two hours of waiting and nothing came of the block party. While I was disappointed, I’m sure the organizers of the event felt even worse.

One can imagine the frustration I felt with two fallen stories and an approaching deadline. I confronted my editor about what happened. Her advice: “looks like it’s time for a blog post.”